Bangladesh to indict suspects in ULFA arms haul case

Dhaka: A Bangladeshi court is set to frame charges against 52 suspects, including ULFA chief Paresh Barua and top Islamist leader Matiur Rahman Nizami in the country`s biggest ever arms smuggling case when 10-truck loads of arms destined for banned Indian separatist group were seized.

"The court set the date on October 25 for framing the charges" as all of the 11 detained accused including ex-junior minister for home Lutfizzaman Babar, ex-industries minister and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Nizami and two former army generals appeared before the judge, a court official said. The rest 41 people accused in the case are absconding.

Officials familiar with the investigation said their extended probe found Chinese firm NORINCO to have produced the weapons but they could not identify the ship that carried the illegal consignment to Bangladeshi territory.

Chittagong Metropolitan Sessions judge SM Muzibur Rahman also rejected the bail petitions of three of the accused, former director general of National Security Intelligence Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury, Retd. Major Liaqat Hossain and top leader of arms smuggling group Deen Mohammad, in the cases while the accused lawyers sought bail for them.

The development came two months after the CID submitted a supplementary charge sheet in the country`s biggest ever 2004 arms haul accusing 11 fresh suspects including two former ministers of the past BNP-led four-party coalition government.

The two influential minister of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia`s past BNP-led government and the ex-chiefs of the two intelligence agencies and fugitive leader ULFA Paresh Barua were among the accused in the charge sheet.

The supplementary charge sheet came on a court order for the extended investigation into the 2004 arms haul when 10 truckloads of weapons were seized in Chittagong as the consignment was reportedly destined to India`s ULFA hideouts.

The reinvestigation process yielded the arrest of several high- profile intelligence officials including former NSI and DGFI chiefs and questioning of a number of senior officers including the then home secretary Omar Faruque.

"Like the (Hindu) Goddess Durga, this case too have 10 hands, which are very strong.

Very influential quarters of the then (BNP-led) government were involved in it who are to be brought to justice with caution," chief prosecution lawyer of the case Kamal Uddin told the court earlier as the investigations were underway.